WordPress is a strange animal. It comes in two flavors:
- WordPress.com – A site that hosts your blog for you
- WordPress.org – Where you download the software to install a self-hosted blog on a webhost
When I was making the move from Tumblr to WordPress, I thought and researched about the two options, trying to decide which way to go. I’m not a noob when it comes to WordPress – I’ve self-hosted for many years and also run my main gaming blog from WordPress.com. So, I’ve used both and seen both sides of the road.
Question: So which option is better?
Answer: It depends on what you need from a blog and what you’re looking to do with your blog. Also how much experience and knowledge you have running a website plays a big part of this.
WordPress.com – Pros and Cons
WordPress.com will host your blog for you with limitations based on the package you choose. Know that there is a free option, so if you’re a new blogger who doesn’t have the money to explore webhosting, this can be a good place to start.
Pros of WordPress.com
- Free option – but with limitations and ads
- Hassle-free setup and maintenance
- WordPress.com will always keep your blog up to date – you never have to worry about updates
- Own as many blogs as you like on one account
- Peace of mind to known you can’t “break” your blog with incompatible plugins or bad templates
- You are a part of WordPress Reader – a WP social media that connects all blogs at WordPress.com
- Easy to select and try out templates
- Seems to handle high traffic (more on that later)
- You can use your own domain name if you purchase one and have a paid WP package
- May be easier to build an audience thanks to WordPress Reader
Cons of WordPress.com
- Ads on free blogs
- Space limitations based on your package, especially for media
- You can’t install your own plugins or templates (unless you pay for the more expensive packages)
- You can’t edit the coding of your templates (unless you pay for the more expensive packages)
Basically, the limitations of WordPress.com are based on how much you’re willing to pay for your blog. However, while you might feel that not being able to install plugins or custom templates is a bad thing, these are often the very things that “break” a self-hosted blog and require troubleshooting to fix (I’ve been there, done that).
If you’re a newer blogger who just wants to experiment with WordPress without worrying that you’re going to install something that brings your website down (also been there), hosting with WordPress.com means that they take care of all of your maintenance. You’ll always be on the newest version and will never need to worry about updating – or that things will break your blog when it updates.
Also, you have direct connection to WordPress Reader – something that shouldn’t be undervalued. This can help you connect with other bloggers, follow blogs that you enjoy, and get your posts out there using WordPress.com’s built-in social media. Basically, it’s a good place to start building an audience.
WordPress.org – Pros and Cons
When you run a self-hosted blog, you get a lot more freedom. But you also have to support the cost of that blog, the maintenance of that blog, and if something breaks, it’s on you to find a fix (or hope that your website host has support for it).
Pros of WordPress.org
- Use any plugins you want
- Use any templates you want
- Complete access to template codes for full customization
- Complete control over your blog install and content
- No limitation on space – aside from what your webhost limits
Cons of WordPress.org
- Not free – you must pay for a domain and webhost
- You will need a webhost and must play by the webhost’s rules about limits on storage, traffic, and server resources
- Depending on the webhost, you may have to install WordPress on your own (or pay for someone to do it for you)
- You have to maintain your own blog and ensure blog and plugins are up to date
- If something breaks, it’s up to you to troubleshoot or find help
- Webhosts may not be the expert on WordPress when it comes to troubleshooting
- No direct connection to WordPress Reader
- It’s up to you to spread the word about your blog and build an audience
- Depending on your webhost, it may cost extra to have more than one blog (or you must know how to use things like subdomains and add-on domains to set it up)
While self-hosting gives you full creative flexibility and control over your blog, it also puts the responsibility of that blog squarely in your hands. If you don’t have experience with webhosts, coding, troubleshooting websites and things like that, this might not be the best option for you.
I’ve also had issues (many times) where due to how much resources my site was using on a shared host, the webhost actually pulled my blog down. This could have been because I had high traffic one day or because bots were messing with my site. I had to prove that my blog was up to date and that it wasn’t a plugin or something causing the resource issues.
This was really, really frustrating and it did require some know-how to get my host to put my site back up. This happened to me several times, and it prompted me to start shopping around for a new host. Ultimately, dealing with this problem was why I moved my main blog to WordPress.com – I have never had this issue since.
The final big thing to consider is where your audience is coming from. As a self-hosted blog, you aren’t directly connected to WordPress Reader. Sure, people can follow your blog through Reader, but when you write a new post, Reader doesn’t put it out there for other bloggers to read. This is a feature that only supports WordPress.com blogs.
With a self-hosted blog, you have to build your audience using your own social media or ways of getting the word out. This was the major point for me when I fully moved from Tumblr. I’d actually already had a self-hosted Spot of Mummery blog, and it rarely got traffic. So I decided to move it to WordPress.com where I could take advantage of WordPress Reader, and it’s doing far, far better than when it was self-hosted.
I could go on for a while about the experiences I’ve had over the years with both forms of blog hosting. There’s positives and negatives about each one – you just gotta decide what works best for the blog and project you’re building.
And keep in mind, you can always pack up and transfer the content of your blog anytime. This just takes a little know-how, time and work, but it can be done.